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Thursday, 02 July 2009 12:42

Usenet.com taken to the cleaners

Written by Nick Farell

Image

Judge calls it pirate's paradise


Usenet.com was taken to the cleaners by the Music and Film industry in a ruling that was not really a surprise.

Punters used to pay $4.95 to $18.95 a month for the privilege of accessing the newsgroups. The outfit was refused to use the “safe harbour” defence often quoted by Google because the Judge felt the outfit's advertising seemed to encourage illegal use.

One of the problems was that Usenet.com went so far as to insert meta tags into its website HTML that included terms like "warez" and "kazaa." Its tutorials included instructions on how to use the service used infringing music files as examples. Even Usenet.com's own customer survey which showed that 42 percent of its responding subscribers said the downloading music was a "primary" reason for signing up.

It didn't help that after it was sued, Usenet.com did its best to wind up the Judge with a repeated pattern of evidence spoliation and stonewalling from Usenet.com. Getting discovery from Usenet.com was as easy as getting a mortgage from a British Bank. There was a story of wiped hard-drives, employees disappearing to Europe, in short everything that could indicate to the Judge that Newsnet.com was not exactly kosher.

Steven Marks, General Counsel for the RIAA, said in a statement that the decision is another example of courts recognizing the value of copyrighted music and taking action against companies and individuals who are engaging in wide scale infringement.

The ruling is however strangely unsatisfying. Usenet.com did appear to be a pirate and did appear to do its utmost to avoid capture. It did not prove anything as far as the greater issue of P2P downloading and did nothing to prove the validity or otherwise of the rest of the Music Industry's anti-piracy antics.

Nick Farell

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